Clean Start™ Helps Maximize Your Thermal Transfer Printer Performance

 In Printer Repair, TT Ribbons

Maintaining printheads will maximize your thermal transfer printer performance!

At PaladinID, we sell thermal transfer printers, printer ribbons and printheads.   Our friends at iimak have put together this helpful guide on how to get the maximum performance for your printheads and keeping the printing process humming along.  We’re sharing iimak’s report as a three-part series.

Thermal transfer printers need regular care to maintain their performance just like a car needs its oil changed. Typically, printer OEMs recommend cleaning the printhead after every ribbon has been fully consumed. This will help you maximize your thermal transfer printer performance and assures print quality does not degrade over time and the printhead does not prematurely fail. However, research shows that less than 10% of people follow the manufacturer’s printhead cleaning recommendations.  Perhaps it’s because cleaning a printhead is it is inconvenient, time-consuming and not top of mind.

Dirt and residue from the ribbon, label stock, and the environment are deposited on the printhead during the printing process. If the printhead is not cleaned regularly, the residue eventually becomes permanent, similar to plaque, and creates a barrier between the printhead element and the label stock. This residue causes print quality issues such as lighter print, pits and voids, as well as streaking, all of which shorten a printhead life.

Printhead Cleaner


Cleaning removes dirt and debris before it bakes onto the printhead elements. Here are some factors that affect buildup

  • Complex label format
  • Faster print speeds
  • High heat settings
  • High volume printing
  • Poor quality ribbons
  • Low quality label stock

These are conditions in thermal transfer printing that accelerate printhead buildup.

All thermal transfer ribbons have a “backcoat” that serves as a protective layer between the printhead and ribbon’s base film, allowing the ribbon to slide smoothly under the printhead. Because all backcoats leave residue on the printhead, it is necessary to clean the printhead regularly to avoid buildup.

Iimak has developed a new innovation called Clean Start™, which is a Built-in Printhead Cleaner.  Clean Start was invented to encourage printhead cleaning and make it easy,  Clean Start is built into the ribbon leader of the thermal transfer ribbon. Clean Start is a thin, white film coated with a mild cleanser that gets pulled through the locked printhead at the start of each ribbon load to remove residue before it builds up.  Clean Start works on wax thermal transfer ribbons, wax/resin and resin ribbons.  See our Clean Start ribbons in our store.  Our Zebra ribbon product line is live in the store.  We also carry Clean Start ribbons for Datamax, Intermec, Sato and Printronix as well.  

Download the Clean Start Performance Report

Still Interested in how to Maximize Your Thermal Transfer Printer Performance?
Come back to our blog for the next in the series.


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